MAGANES: The ouster of Sereno as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

May 14, 2018 at 1:33 pm Leave a comment


There’s a lot of brouhaha on the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as the 24th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The magistrates with the vote of 8-6 ruled that Sereno had not been qualified to be appointed as Chief Justice because of non-submission of Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN). It was a historic ruling, as some legal luminaries said, because Sereno, being an impeachable official, was ousted by way of quo warranto filed by the Solicitor General Calida.

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While many those in the legal profession have accepted the decision of the Supreme Court against Sereno, many also believed that it was unconstitutional. They said that the Justices have made the Supreme Court a puppet institution of the Duterte Administration, and a mockery of the rule of law. Of course, non-lawyers who are close to Sereno and former President Benigno Aquino III also viewed the decision as the “dark side of the Philippine democracy” as their expectations favorable on them were not met.

I am a not a lawyer so I could not argue on the merit of it on legal parlance. I will comment about the Supreme Court decision as a layman who have weighed the pros and cons of the quo warranto petition. A quo warranto is a legal remedy to remove an appointed official who has not met the qualifications imposed on the position. This means that the appointment of an appointed official could be challenged before the Courts, and in the case of Sereno, before the Supreme Court.

The quo warranto petition against Sereno started when it was discovered that she was not able to submit her several SALNs as requirements before the Judicial Bar Council (JBC). In spite of the non-submission of SALNs, she was however included in the shortlist of nominees as Chief Justice by the JBC. Then President Aquino III acting on JBC’s nomination appointed her as the Chief Magistrate of the Supreme Court. The issue of the quo warranto petition is: Was Sereno qualified to be appointed as Chief Justice?

Let’s recall however that along with the quo warranto, there was also an impeachment complaint against Sereno before the House of Representatives where several hearings were conducted. Even Sereno’s colleagues at the Supreme Court were summoned to testify on some grounds of the complaint. The members of the House of Representatives have already voted to impeach her  based on the report of the Committee on Justice in a plenary session. The Committee was preparing the articles on impeachment to be submitted to the Senate for eventual impeachment hearings.

But the quo warranto petition presented to the Supreme Court has to be decided on. The Justices as top legal luminaries have to decide based on “rule of law,” the Supreme Court being the interpreter of law. The decision came out last May 11. The magistrates found Sereno unfit for the position even at the start of her appointment. She was ousted in her position and stripped of her majestic toga as the Chief Justice.

Now, many are against the decision saying it was unconstitutional. How can we say that it’s unconstitutional when it was already the Supreme Court that decided on it? It has interpreted the ouster of Sereno based on the Constitution. Indeed, Sereno should have been impeached being an impeachable official. However, looking at it, how can she be impeached when she was not qualified as a Chief Justice based on the ruling even at the start of her appointment. Without the quo warranto, the last remedy to oust Sereno is through impeachment- a political activity initiated by politicians from the House of Representatives and to be decided by the politicians of the Senate House.

I am a little bit confused why those against President Duterte who invoke the “rule of law” are the first ones to condemn the Supreme Court decision. Why not respect the independence of the judiciary. We are not above the legal minds of the Justices who  have exerted extra time and efforts to look into the legal angles of Sereno’s case, taking into consideration the constitutionality of their actions.

The way I look at it, these dissenters are just sour-graping. They pretend to know more about legal matters when in fact these areas are the domain of the Justices. There are many cases that have been reviewed by the Supreme Court in the past. Justices decided on the merits of the cases. That’s why, in every decision, there were always dissenting opinions. However, since we are not under the “rule of men, but on the rule of law”, we have to respect whatever decision the Supreme Court has made.

We have to move on as a nation. Sereno has been ousted, so be it. She has maybe some legal remedies where she can challenge the Justices. For one, she can file a motion for reconsideration, which I think impossible for reversal, or pack up her things and have a graceful exit.

(For comments and suggestions, email me at emperorvirgil@yahoo.com or at virgilmaganes42@gmail.com. Visit my blog “The Roving Pen” at http://www.virgilmaganes.wordpress.com. Read the online edition of Northern Watch at http://www.northwatch.wordpress.com)

Entry filed under: News.

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